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Hervis Rogers

Hervis Rogers, who drew media attention after waiting over six hours to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary, is accused of voting while on parole. (Photo: Jen Rice/Houston Public Media)

Case of Hervis Rogers 'Textbook Example' of Voting Injustice, Say Rights Advocates

"This is a voter suppression prosecution, pure and simple," said the head of the Texas AFL-CIO, "a poster child for Jim Crow 2.0."

Andrea Germanos

The case of a Houston man facing decades in prison for allegedly voting while knowing he was ineligible has thrown into stark relief Texas Republicans' drive to limit access to the polls and criticism of the cash bail system.

Hervis Rogers, now 62, was arrested Wednesday, facing what critics say is an "outrageous" prosecution by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, for having voted while still on parole on Super Tuesday in the 2020 Democratic primary.

"Mr. Hervis' situation is a textbook example of how these systems intersect to undermine our fundamental rights and target minorities."

Rogers, who is Black, drew media attention at the time because he had waited over six hours in line to cast that March ballot. "I wanted to get my vote in, voice my opinion. I wasn't going to let anything stop me, so I waited it out," Rogers said around 1:30 AM as he left the Harris County polling location to get ready to go to one of his jobs.

Over a year later—as the Texas Legislature holds a special session to advance voting restrictions and as Paxton faces a Texas bar investigation over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election—the attorney general is going after Rogers.

Rogers is facing up to 40 years in prison for allegedly voting while knowing he was ineligible. CNN reported:

According to a June 24 indictment from the Texas attorney general's office, Hervis Earl Rogers, 62, voted in the November 6, 2018, general and special elections and the March 3, 2020, Democratic primary election despite being on felony parole for a 25-year sentence for burglary. Because he was on felony parole, he was ineligible to vote under Texas law, according to the Texas attorney general office.

The ACLU of Texas, which is representing Rogers along with the law firm Hochglaube & DeBorde, said Saturday that Rogers, whose parole was up in June 2020, "could face decades in prison for what at most might be an innocent mistake."

He was released from jail Saturday after his $100,000 bail was posted by the non-profit Bail Project. In a Saturday statement, the group accused Paxton of using Rogers as a pawn in "political theater" and referenced the Texas GOP's latest advancement of voting restrictions measures.

“Voting restrictions and the expansion of the cash bail system go hand in hand,” said The Bail Project founder and CEO Robin Steinberg.

"Mr. Hervis' situation is a textbook example of how these systems intersect to undermine our fundamental rights and target minorities," Steinberg continued. "In their fevered desire to suppress the turnout of people of color, the Texas Attorney General has engaged in political theater, while using the bail system to send a targeted message of fear."

In a Monday column on his Popular Information newsletter, journalist Judd Legum drew attention to the timing of the charges aligning with the special session attacking voting rights. "Paxton is using the arrest to obscure the fact that he has spent tens of thousands of hours investigating potential voting fraud and come up with almost nothing," Legum wrote. He also drew attention to the location of Paxton's prosecution.

Hervis Rogers lives in Harris County and cast his ballot in Harris County. But Paxton charged Rogers in neighboring Montgomery County. What gives?

In Texas, "violations of election law may be prosecuted in the county where the alleged crime was committed, or an adjoining county." Harris County is racially diverse and one of Texas' most progressive counties. Montgomery County, however, is one of the state's most conservative and just 4% of its residents are Black. 

Paxton "has a history of bringing charges in adjacent counties that are more conservative and more likely to have juries, grand juries and judges sympathetic to his cases."

According to Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube of Hochglaube & DeBorde, Rogers' case "is about who we let the government decide to throw out like trash and who we deem worthy of the basic rights to participate in the processes we all hold dear.”

The Texas AFL-CIO said the case against Rogers had similarities with the one against Crystal Mason, another Black Texan, who was sentenced to five years in prison for casting an ultimately uncounted provisional ballot in the November 2016 election while she was on federal supervised release.

"This is a voter suppression prosecution, pure and simple, a poster child for Jim Crow 2.0," said Texas AFL-CIO president Rick Levy in reference to Rogers' case. "Unfortunately, it confirms that Texas' shameful legacy of disenfranchisement is alive and well and desperately needs fixing.”

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